Thursday, December 7, 2017

Braille Cheater Beater

Hi friends, I am so excited to share this post because this is from my hot husband, Todd, who is an itinerant TVI. He has a handful of low vision students who are learning Braille. He kept finding that they always wanted to cheat and peek with their eyes. That's not uncommon. Lots of our kids who are learning Braille and have usable vision try to cheat while doing Braille lessons. My husband wanted to find a way to work bust the cheating and still have a little fun with instruction. 
[The picture below is a picture of the Braille cheater beater which is a black screen the blocks a student from being able to see the Braille. They have to use their fingers to read it only. On the black screen there are Braille cards with contractions on them]
He also made some Braille contraction cards to help with memorization. A lot of his students still like to look at items to learn so he has visual Braille cards. He puts the contractions that he is teaching on the screen to remind the students of the them. (He also made a Braille contraction Go Fish game with cards like this). 

[Side view of the Braille cheater beater screen. You can see how a Braille book fits and the screen blocks the Braille.]
The original version of this has the long legs (as seen in the picture). He later cut the legs shorter so it wasn't so long. He used black felt and CPVC. We just sewed it up on the side to slide over the PVC. It was cheap and easy to make and has worked pretty well with his students. 

 Below are the directions and the materials used to make one. It's worked like a charm to bust the cheating with Braille.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Teach ECC Using a Daily School Schedule

Hi friends! I wanted to share an easy way to teach the Expanded Core Curriculum: use the daily school schedule! This gem of an idea comes from our talented preschool teacher, Sandra. I was visiting her classroom and saw her fantastic display. I saw her daily schedule and immediately started seeing ECC areas popping out everywhere!
[Picture #1 description: a daily schedule in the formation of two Braille cells. Each dot position has a print and object to represent a part of the day. ]

Check out the close up pictures of the Braille cell formation schedule.  Each dot position has a tactile object, large print and Braille. 

This daily schedule chart is oozing preschool to early elementary ECC concepts! Don't think that this is just a daily schedule. It is an easy way to embed ECC instruction.
 Here's just a quick overview of ECC areas that are covered by this schedule:
compensatory skill areas (more than just the Braille formation, think about concept development, organization, etc.)
career education (following a schedule, the chore chart, etc.)
ILS (time management, responding to the cue with the appropriate action)
orientation & mobility (spatial skills development; knowing the location of the center or activity)
recreation & leisure (following rules--you have to know how to follow rules when playing or participating in a recreation activity)
social interaction skills: the social discussion of what is happening during the day, turn taking)
self-determination (identifying what they can participate in; seeing how they are part of activities)
assistive technology (students can use low tech devices and pre-concept techniques for accessing information)
sensory efficiency (using all senses for concept development. I also want to point out the contrast that Sandra used. It is not a visually complex schedule for students to look at.)

Check out the accompanying chore chart. Chore charts are not unusual in classrooms. This teaches career education. I always want to encourage teachers to use chore charts and assign meaningful chores for students to do. This helps with concept development and foundation career skills. 

I love sharing easy ways where ECC skills occur naturally. That's the key to ECC instruction: find routines where ECC skills naturally occur or are naturally embedded. Hope this makes you think twice about using a daily school schedule!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

CVI Supplies at Dollar Tree Holiday 2017

It is not a secret that now is the time to buy CVI supplies such as Christmas lights, garland, tinsel, ornaments, etc. I have blogged about it myself for years to buy up these hot items (and then go back again at Valentine's Day for more!!). I was at Dollar Tree again and saw the new displays of holiday decorations and thought I would share some sweet buys from this season. I also wanted to share some important tips for using these decorations without overwhelming your student. 
Let's get started:
  • Most important:  how to keep your decorations meaningful for vision. The old saying KISS comes into play here. Keep It Simple for Students. Know your student's what and where vision. This means what can they see (color, shape, 2D vs 3D, etc.) and where can they see it (peripheral, central, left or right/up and or down). 
  • Environment matters: This may be old hat to some of you but if you are new or unfamiliar to CVI, always remember that the environment matters. This means to have contrast (black background always works so that the decoration shows up nice without visual clutter). Other important factors are sound, lighting, etc. Some students simply cannot tolerate a cluttered background (includes sounds, smells and visual items). 
  • Work in items gradually and then just wait and I mean WAIT! Present the decorations and then just let your student see the item.
Every year Dollar Tree puts out awesome holiday items. 
Here's this year's top picks for CVI this year:
(below picture is a rack of garland, ornaments, ribbon and snowman in traditional holiday colors)
The ornaments are good (I prefer going for the shatterproof ones at Michael's or Joann on sale). You can hang them in a variety of ways to catch your student's attention. I really like the garland! It is shiny, has fun movement and has good color. Don't discount the snowman either! They have fun texture, contrast and you can add lights. 

Picture (image description: lots of different holiday ribbons and bows in traditional holiday colors).
These curler ribbons and bows are totally a hit! You can pull at them or lace some bells or other fun toys on them and they are tough to destroy. I like the standard bows and add magnets to them. You can use a cookie sheet (also can be purchased from Dollar Tree) to do fun activities (see my last year post on Christmas/holiday activities: 

Picture (image description: shiny silver buckets, plates, for food display). 
I included this one because these platters, buckets, etc. are so fun to reflect light or even act as a mirror. Most people usually stick with the traditional holiday color/decorations but miss the silver mirror type objects. They are awesome accessory pieces!

I wanted to include the garland again because it is such a fun hit. All four of these colors: silver, red, gold and green, work together so nicely. The gold and silver provide a nice contrast to the red and green. Red is a fave CVI color but I also want to encourage you to try green. Green has been an increasingly great color with so many of my CVI students. This garland is pretty thick though so if you are thinking of using it to hang other items, keep an eye out. Your object must be larger than the garland. 

A few other items that I like are:
  • the cookie tins (wrap them in shiny wrapping paper and put things inside to shake for sound). 
  • wrapping paper (pick the shiny kind!)
  • holiday leaves and decorations like poinsettia (they are just fun textures--watch for choking). 
I also recommend hitting up the coupons from Joann and Michael's. Joann coupon deals for fabric are top notch. I like to buy velvet or fur (you can get it in black!). I use it as a big mat/blanket for students to lay on or as a background. I have bought a TON of of ribbon in a variety of textures and colors from Michael's. There are so many activities to make with ribbon (both super fat width, normal and a little wide). 

Have some fun holiday fun!! 
Check out my post from last year that has a ton of fun holiday activities:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

ECC Lesson Plan Template

Here is one of my favorite resources for teachers and paraprofessionals for learning how to implement the Expanded Core. This is a simple template to help zero in on ECC areas. Here's how it works: teachers write about everyday routines, activities or a specific lesson. Next, label all areas that are being addressed within the activity. Teachers can use this template for everyday routines such as handing in homework or the arrival/departure routine. They can use it for activities such as centers or a specific lesson. It's quick and easy for teachers to do and it focuses them on how they are embedding ECC areas throughout their day. 

pictures of the ECC lesson template
I also give this template to our support staff. This can also include related services. I think it is important for everyone on the team to embed ECC areas. I really like this for paraprofessionals because they often are the closest with ECC instruction with their direct time with students. This works for paraprofessionals who work in the elementary classroom but also with paras who work with middle and high school students. Paras of students in high school have the unique opportunity to be the biggest facilitators of ECC instruction because they have a lot of access to students. Many high school teachers (general ed) don't know how to implement ECC and TVIs may not have the service hours to provide several ECC lessons a day. But paras do! They are there from start to the end of the day. They can be the ones who can identify opportunities to embed ECC instruction throughout the day. 
I created this as a word document but also as a fillable pdf file so that teachers can quickly do this on the iPad. I specifically created this as a one page document so that it can be a 'snapshot' of how to embed ECC in a lesson/activity/routine. It also helps teachers and support staff to see how quickly they can infuse areas. I get a feeling that when teachers see big text areas they have to write a lot of information. This is sometimes true but most times you can make a quick bullet list of ECC skills. Teachers need to see that we need to teach the ECC all day, every day! 
You can email me and I will send it to you to use.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Connect With the ECC on Social Media

Logo for the 9 More Than Core social media groups
Hello friends!
I am so excited to announce my newest project, 9 More Than Core! I wanted to find a way that ECC resources, support, ideas and discussion were more accessible to parents and teachers. My lovely school, The Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, were way supportive of this new initiate. I will also have a website that is on the way!! Woot, woot for more ECC support!! You can find me on Facebook and Instagram by searching for 9 More Than Core. I am pretty faithful about posting regularly. I am also still sharing ideas here on The Bee so check back for more ideas and projects. I look forward to connecting with more of you on social media!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Name Activity for Early Childhood

Happy back to school friends! Sorry for time with no posts. It's been crazy but I have lots of fun ideas all saved on my phone to blog about so I promise to get caught up!
This post is inspired by a typical activity from preschool. I kept seeing all these fun name activities to teach students their names. The goal for our school is to transition our students back to their neighborhood schools so I always like to see what activities they are doing in typical classrooms. 
I found this fun name activities and with a few tweaks made them for our preschoolers. 

Student name in Braille and print

The name activity I made for our Braille readers have actual Braille and simulated Braille using buttons, felt circles or pins. The green dots are textured dots so students can point out individual letters. NOTE: The enlarged dots (made with buttons, pins, etc) are for our pre-Braille readers. It is to "warm up" their fingers and get them learning about the dot combinations. I also used Braille labels to type out their names in Braille. You can also use the ABC stickers from APH (ask your TVI for some stickers--they also have print  & Braille).

I used the KG Red Hands font to make these. I looked around for some free teacher fonts and I like this font because it has a bold and an outline of the font. It's easy to read (not a lot of visual clutter) but still looks like kid font. It is important to know what font size or just size that your little ones can see. Regular ed teachers may need a little support for this from TVIs.  Also, be careful about the white background with lamination. It might be too much glare for some kids (both the laminate and the white could be too much). I made a few other versions of these and used green outline to the letters because some of my students see green (or red) when those highlights are there. Make sure there is still contrast (meaning don't use green letters on green paper--that's probably too much green).

Make sure that whenever there is Braille that there is print as well (as a cheat for people that don't know Braille). See the above picture with the Braille cards.  The teachers had a great idea of putting a straight line of Velcro so students can just put their letters on the line.

Remember to keep your Braille labels consistent like the ones in the picture above. I didn't want our students to feel all over the paper to find the Braille. The Braille letters of Maeve's name are consistent--they are straight and in the same place so she can track.  I liked this idea because it is something that our kids will recognize when they move to the district in an early childhood class. We did make some printouts (with the same font--in the outline version) so our kids could trace and start their writing skills. These are easy to make! You just need cardstock (I also like to add a pop of color as a frame), laminate (they also make non-glare laminate if you have students that are sensitive to glare), Velcro and items to make your Braille (be careful of the size of the buttons. I noticed that one set of sim Braille was a little too big for our students' little fingers).  Best part of this whole activity: it's teaching the Expanded Core Curriculum!